3 Aug 2011

India leading market for outsourced pharmaceutical 'guinea pigs'

Clinical Research on new drugs is worth about $30 billion. That is a whole lot more than the life of a few illiterate Indians.

The equation according to the Association of Clinical Research Organisation (ACRO) couldn't be simpler: "Greater population = faster clinical trials = new treatments available sooner. It really is a simple equation. In fact, studies show that the research time needed for cancer clinical trials can be cut in half by conducting the trials globally versus solely in the U.S."

But 'population' is not the only business advantage that outsourced clinical trials in India offer... The cost is low. Regulation is lax. Corruption is rife. Patients are desperate. And the penalty for using human beings as guinea pigs is minimal - or indeed, non-existent.

As the Al Jazeera TV reported implies, what besides profits could motivate the testing of exorbitantly expensive drugs on illiterate slum-dwellers and farm labourers who can never afford it?

The 25-min version of the episode (below) answers the question adequately. Particularly illuminating is improper testing of drugs on people in Bhopal who are already suffering from the debilitating after-effects of corporate greed and official apathy.

If you are not hypertensive, I recommend you watch.

P.S: Also watch out for the part covering the 'demonstration project' for Merck's Cervical Cancer drug, funded by a $27 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that was shut down by the Indian government after public furore over the death of several girl.

Are you pondering the obvious question: If efficiacy and safety in badly conducted clinical trials are largely undependable, how do they get released in the Big Pharma's home markets?

Well, let's just say that India obviously does not have a monopoly on corruption.

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